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New principal puts focus on relationships

By Kayla Baugh

This article was published August 28, 2017 at 10:31 a.m.

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Chris Eubanks stands in a hallway at Ahlf Junior High School in Searcy. Eubanks’ first day as principal of the school was July 3, and he said he hopes to make an impact by showing all students that he is an advocate for them.

— Chris Eubanks believes it’s important to understand and work with children from all backgrounds.

“Knowledge and wisdom are great equalizers, and my passion is to help kids with both,” he said.

Eubanks’ first day as principal of Ahlf Junior High School in Searcy was July 3.

Before moving into the position, he was principal of Corning High School in Clay County for six years.

Eubanks said he started out as a 10th-grade English teacher at Morrilton High School for five years, but his long-term goal was to work his way into administration.

The idea of being an instructional leader was exciting, he said.

“I was also inspired by the opportunity to work with students who may have issues in school and to help them succeed in a way they don’t even want to yet. In junior high, I wasn’t a good student, but I learned to take and use my opportunities to help myself and others,” he said.

Eubanks described the Searcy School District as a big family that communicates and cooperates well.

“For example, at Lionfest (on Aug. 18), the stands were filled on a hot afternoon [with people] to show support for one another. Many teachers were there for support of students they no longer teach. It was a demonstration of commitment by the community,” he said.

Seventh- and eighth-graders are a special group of kids, he said, and they’re energetic and academically excitable.

Eubanks said he will spend a lot of time learning from and watching them this year while adjusting to his new position.

“I know our focus is relationships; if we can develop mutual respect, then high-yield learning is a byproduct,” he said. “I’m not interested in changing a lot this year, but I do hope to continue the current school learning culture.”

Discovering things that make students unmotivated and working to find solutions is something Eubanks said he is passionate about.

“Kids raised in poverty, and even intellectual poverty, are starting life with a handicap that they will have to conquer,” he said.

Eubanks said he hopes to make an impact by showing all students that he is an advocate for them and on their team.

“That doesn’t mean supporting them in an error, but it does mean showing them how to get out of a hole they have dug for themselves,” he said.

Eubanks said he also hopes to push kids to reach their fullest potential and do more than they’ve done in the past.

“That also means the smart and wise being smarter and wiser. My teachers are the key to that, and my part is to support them in making it happen. I suspect that my new teachers are some of the best in the state,” Eubanks said.

Ed Sellers, a former principal of Vilonia High School, is someone Eubanks said he looks up to for his effortless positive attitude.

“There are also many other principals that I admire. Their work ethic and commitment are extraordinary,” Eubanks said.

Kellee Smith, superintendent of the Corning School District, described Eubanks as hardworking and energetic.

Eubanks is family-oriented, and the love he has for his family is evident in all aspects of his life, she said.

Smith said Eubanks was always joking around, which made his time at Corning High School memorable.

He always worked to provide teachers with the tools and technology necessary for instruction, she said.

“I really hated to see Mr. Eubanks leave the Corning School District, but I knew he wanted to live closer to his family. I wish him much success in his new position,” she said.

Eubanks said he spends a lot of free time at church, hunting, fishing, reading and writing.

He lives in Searcy with his wife, Sarah, and their three sons: Noah, 12, Luke, 9, and Seth, 5.

“They sometimes get what’s left at the end of the day, but I love them dearly. They really are more than I deserve, and the time we spend together is great,” he said.

His children love reading, Eubanks said, and he often spends time reading with them.

“I tell students all the time that reading will educate you more than any other activity. I believe it,” he said.

He said one thing he wishes he had known more about when he was a junior high student was the importance of saving money.

The best advice Eubanks said he can offer to students at Ahlf Junior High School is to remember that adults were once in their position.

“Remember that teachers, administrators and the other adults were all your age. We do understand,” he said.

Eubanks said he has had the opportunity to work with all of the administrators in the Searcy School District, and he feels privileged to be a member of an outstanding group of people.

“They are great people who all love kids,” he said.

Staff writer Kayla Baugh can be reached at (501) 244-4307 or kbaugh@arkansasonline.com.

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